PHIL 441 A: Public Health Ethics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 9:30am - 11:20am
EEB 125
Carina Fourie

Syllabus Description:


Public Health Ethics (PHIL 441)

Instructor: Carina Fourie

Tue & Thu 9.30am - 11.20am in EEB 125


The philosophy and ethics of public health are growing fields of systematic study. As the focus of public health ethics is on the health of a public or a population, rather than on individual patients, and often on prevention rather than on treatment, public health ethics appears to raise different questions and require unique answers to other fields of bioethics. Over the last decade there has been greater recognition of the distinctiveness of public health ethics as a field, and it is gradually developing into an independent sub-discipline of bioethics, with significant links to political philosophy and the philosophy of science, among other philosophical fields.

In this course, we will investigate public health ethics as a distinctive field of applied ethics. In order to do so, we will assess what it means that public health focuses on populations and on prevention. We will also consider the particularity of the sciences associated with public health as well as the methods with which one does public health ethics. In conjunction, we will be attempting to answer central normative ethical questions and to assess real-life public health program and policies. For example, we will examine applied problems associated with vaccinations, racial disparities in health, age and age discrimination, HIV-AIDS, and global health.

Click on this link for the full Syllabus.

Click on the following links for the course readings and additional materials (also found in 'Modules'):

1. Introduction to course - Jan 4

2. The meaning of 'public' in public health - Jan 9

3. The meaning of 'health' in public health - Jan 11

4. Ethical frameworks - Jan 16

5. Cost-effectiveness analysis - Jan 18

Reading summary - DUE JAN 20

6. The harm principle & liberty - Jan 23

7. Parental choice & coercion: Screening & Vaccination - Jan 25

8. Risk & the precautionary principle - Jan 30

9. Health disparities & injustice - Feb 1

10. Health disparities & injustice - Feb 6

11. Health disparities & injustice - Feb 8

Paper 1 - Assessing WA Department of Health Policies & Regulations DUE Feb 10

12. HIV-AIDS & the human right to health - Feb 13

13. HIV-AIDS & community health in South Africa - Feb 15

Revised summaries due Feb 17, 11.59pm

14. HIV-AIDS & community health in South Africa - Feb 20

15. Philosophy of science and epidemiology - Feb 22

16. Philosophy of science, gender norms and epidemiology - Feb 27

Graduate Students (only): Draft Paper due Feb 28, 11.59pm

17. Health Care Rationing & Statistical People - Mar 1

18. Rationing & Discrimination - Mar 6 & 8

Participation grade

Paper 2 due Mar 13, 11.59pm (topics to be released after Paper 1 is complete)

Graduate Students (only): Final paper due Mar 13, 11.59



Additional Details:

This course provides an in-depth study of the philosophical issues arising in the practice and policy of public and population health. Topics covered include assessment of the concept of ‘population’ and its ethical implications, the ethics of compulsory vaccination and targeted HIV-AIDS screening, and the philosophy of epidemiology. Material consists mainly of texts from philosophy and ethics, but, due to the course's interdisciplinary nature, also includes papers from epidemiology, newspaper articles, and actual WA state public health regulations.

TEXT: No Textbook Required – course materials will be available on Canvas.

Catalog Description: 
An in-depth study of the philosophical issues arising in the practice and policy of public health. Material consists mainly of texts from philosophy and ethics, but, due to the course's interdisciplinary nature, also includes papers from epidemiology, newspaper articles, and current public health regulations and campaigns.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:15pm